I’ve been trying not to shoo her out of the kitchen.

I’ve been trying to see meal prep as a learning experience, as an opportunity to teach her the beauty of nourishing others – both their hearts and their bellies.

But then I glance at her hair in the egg yolk and see the raw bacon she’s dragging on the kitchen counter and all I can think about is that I haven’t yet chopped the potatoes and quickly now, off we go to wash the salmonella out of her locks while the toast grows cold.

So, I wouldn’t say it has been going well, not really.

I know it won’t always be this way. I know there are some evenings I have the patience and stamina to whip up a batch of raw brownies and let her measure everything with a wobbly hand and generous math. I know there are some evenings I won’t mind the mess.

I know there are some evenings I will.

Note: Would you look at that maturity? Knowing my own limits, adjusting my expectations, being kinder to myself? I’m on fiiiiiire over here.

So, until I can trust myself not to yell when she washes the broccoli in the dog dish or sprinkles (dumps) finishing salt (sugar) onto the chicken, I’m switching it up.

Bee rules her kitchen; I rule mine.

While I’m braising the short ribs, she’s stirring chocolate stew.

While I’m slicing apples, she’s mixing snow ice cream.

While I’m roasting potatoes, she’s baking rosemary muffins.

Together, but separate.

Separate, but together.

There was a time when I would have reprimanded myself for this. When I would have rearranged meal prep to allow for the extra mess, when I would have martyred my way through dinner hour, sighing through every spill and mistake and correction. When I would have believed a “good mother” would never shoo her daughter out of the kitchen, would never grow frustrated over spilled flour.

But I no longer believe in the idea of a good mother. I believe you do the best you can, when you can, with what you can.

I believe it’s okay to protect the parts of your day that you love. It’s okay to keep them for yourself, to transform dinner hour into “me” time. The sipping, the tasting, the sauteeing, the stirring – maybe you make it as sacred and enjoyable as you can, with or without sticky banana fingers that want to help.

Maybe you shoo her out of your kitchen and into her own.

Maybe that’s learning, too.

Yesterday, she asks me if I want to try her new recipe. It’s strawberry soup, she says. Do you love it?

I do! I say.

It’s better if it’s really, really hot, she says. I’m going to need to use your oven because I don’t have an oven in my kitchen.

OK, I say. Someday you can use my oven.

We both believe it.

  • LOVE THIS! It’s funny how when I hear a mom tell me she loves cooking with her kids… I think I should love cooking with mine. And maybe someday I will, but for now I prefer it to be just me in the kitchen. Thanks for sharing this perspective. I am also learning my limits and what a good thing that is for everyone!
    oh and I just bought a mini kitchen from ikea for my almost three year old for Christmas…I was having those same feelings of he needs his stuff, I need mine!

  • This was great, thank you!

    A couple of years ago I realized I was wearing myself out and possibly keeping my children from learning/discovering things that they could only learn/discover without me. I felt like I had to do everything with them. And we homeschool, so it was a lot.

    We still cuddle and read books and play games these days. But I have found that when I give myself margin, when I engage in self-care, I am a much happier mom and my kids are happier and more independent. A definite win all around!

    • I love this perspective, Lauren – thank you! There seems to be a lot of homeschooling perspective on involving the kids as much as possible, on never turning down a learning opportunity whether in the kitchen or beyond. But as an introvert, it’s been helpful to me to learn my limits and “teach” when I’m at my best self (on calm mornings/afternoons!) rather than during dinner prep. I’m appreciating the change, and am so grateful for another perspective like your own!

      • Thanks so much. I have learned a lot since I began reading your blog earlier this year! This is one of the few I look at, as I don’t have time for much internet perusing. Thank you for your truthful, refreshing voice on being a mom and life.
        p.s. I can totally relate to the introvert thing! I only have so much energy to give in a day and I am having to learn how to manage it.

  • Time and safety are big factors in our cooking adventures but I figure if I make it look fun and stress-free (relatively), then he’ll eventually feel that way too. Besides, what’s a little flour (egg, cocoa, peanut butter) all over the kitchen? = )

  • I’m reading this post at the perfect time! Dealing with an almost four year old that wants to participate in everything I do. This is such good reminder that I can reserve part of my day if that makes me a not “always good but sane” mom. Thnaks Erin!

Comments are closed.